All too often, people driving south on Highway 1 head straight to Carmel or Monterey, bypassing all the North Monterey County coast has to offer. Salty old Moss Landing , halfway between Santa Cruz and Monterey, is a great place to turn off Highway 1. Moss Landing, 100 miles south of San Francisco, is still one of the busiest commercial fishing ports on California’s central coast. It offers a glimpse into coastal life past and present. When the boats come in, the docks hum with activity as the catch is unloaded. And the mighty ocean brings crashing surf to the quaint fishing village’s two large sandy state beaches, where walking, surfing, shore fishing and horseback riding are popular beach activities.
For the outdoor adventurer, Moss Landing is the gateway to the Elkhorn Slough, one of California’s largest remaining relatively undisturbed coastal wetlands. The protected waters of the slough’s broad salt marshes, tidal flats and nearby dunes provide an important haven for a fantastic variety of birds who stop to rest and eat during their migration. It is one of the top five places in the nation for the number of species (over 300). At least six rare endangered species are found, including peregrine falcons, Santa-Cruz long-toed salamander, clapper rails, brown pelicans, and least terns.
Elkhorn Slough is also a nursery for over 80 species of fish.
One of the best ways to visit this precious natural wildlife habitat is with the Elkhorn Slough Safari, a two-hour guided nature tour. The 27-ft, stable pontoon boat takes you right down the main channel that winds inland for seven miles. With Captain Gideon’s keen eye you won’t miss a thing as a naturalist guide offers an educational in-depth look at slough ecology, its fascinating history and birding.
“The way you involved everyone in reporting and counting the sightings was a great touch, Captain Gideon, “said one of the safari members.
It is one of the best places in the world to see rafting otters. An average of 40 sea otters are sighted each tour. You can watch them playing, feeding by cracking their clam shells and socializing. In addition, harbor seals have an active rookery of newborn pups in the spring and summer months.
No doubt you’ll be hungry when you return from exploring the slough. Back in the small fishing village of Moss Landing, a hearty, delicious seafood feast awaits you at Phil’s Fish Market and Eatery. A former fisherman, Phil and his family owned Angelo’s in Monterey. He features his grandmother’s recipes and will share them with you. “It’s just good peasant food,” says Phil
Or, at the Whole Enchilada Restaurant and Jazz Club you can enjoy a tasty seafood enchilada and the perfect margarita prepared by Chef Luis.
Also, be sure to stop in the post office. Its walls are decorated with many interesting historic photographs from Moss Landing’s past, including Captain Moss himself.
Today, Moss Landing is fast becoming a center for marine research. There are two marine research and education institutions: Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, which sponsors a fun, interesting Open House for families each year and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (deep sea) Research Institute.
Agriculture is one of the largest businesses outside downtown Moss Landing. The crops provide more fresh vegetables than any other county in the United States, including artichokes, as well as wine grapes, strawberries and fresh flowers, all for sale at roadside stands like Pezzini’s, just off Highway One.
IF YOU GO
Elkhorn Slough Safari Wildlife Tours – Always call ahead for reservations:
www.elkhornslough.com, 831-633-5555. Ask about special discounts and group rates.